NATA position is the regulatory initiative regarding Flight and Duty Time should be deferred pending meaningful consultation with industry. We need the best available science to ensure that any changes to current regulations are best designed to address the needs of all sectors of the aviation industry. Our goal is to create and maintain a safe and efficient operating environment for our members.
Please see extensive supporting materials and other documents on this issue here (must be logged in).
The following best summarizes NATA concerns:
i) While the regulations are advertised as being based upon science, the link to science is broken by the introduction of personal opinion and influence from organized labour. The best example of this is the requirement for 10 hours rest between work assignments when away from home and 12 hours when at home. The science says that one needs 8 hours sleep, period. The current regulation requires that the operator provide 8 hours sleep opportunity to crewmembers and in order to do this we typically schedule between 10 and 12 hours between shifts depending upon specific circumstances. In this case, the current regulation provides a logical link from the science while the proposed new regulation does not. In fact one could easily make a plausible argument for more rest time when away from home and less at home, particularly given the recent “unfit for duty” incidents, all of which occurred with “away from home” crewmembers;
ii) Neither the current regulations nor the proposed new regulations recognize the insidious nature of fatigue or the inter-relationship between the various fatigue elements. It is intuitive to understand that 1 minute does not spell the difference between being fit for duty and fatigued and that the overall level of fatigue is likely to be higher in an individual who is high on all fatigue parameters than in an individual who is high on only one fatigue parameter. With the establishment of Safety Management Systems (SMS), air operators are becoming increasingly proficient at recognizing hazards in their operation and in taking steps to mitigate risks associated with those hazards. And, perhaps unintended, consequence of this proficiency is an increased ability to recognize bad legislation and to develop alternative measures that would produce equivalent, if not superior levels of safety;
iii) The notion that “a pilot is a pilot” and therefore the same rules should apply to all sectors of the industry is badly flawed. There is very little similarity between a helicopter pilot flying multiple short VFR sectors in a remote environment and a fixed wing pilot flying a large transport category aircraft in a long haul international environment. Similarly, northern scheduled operations are vastly different from southern operations. Furthermore limited support infrastructure, like precision approaches, paved runways and weather reporting support, tends to increase the likelihood of flight delays. We need to have the ability to accomplish multi-sector skeds in the same day, with the same crew, while allowing for operational delays. Risks associated with any increased fatigue associated with periodic additional sectors and increased duty hours can be can be mitigated by corresponding decreases to other fatigue parameters;
iv) The suggestion that a “Fatigue Management System” will provide the relief and flexibility necessary for operators to manage fatigue in their own operations holds some promise in theory but in practice this approach is likely to become an alternative set of prescriptive regulations simply because the ultimate “suitability test” of any alternative measures will be effectively made by the proponents/designers of the poorly conceived prescriptive regulations.